Lime green walls and sour key candies are on the table. Fancy sodas and brightly coloured office supplies adorn this workplace.
Open the doors to the offices of the kitestring creative branding studio and the juices start flowing.
The small team of 10 at kitestring works with clients to create a new or rejuvenated brand for their business, specializing in social media use.
The creative Hamilton start-up is celebrating its fifth birthday Monday. When they opened up in 2007, the online landscape was quite different.
“Three years ago, if we said 'use social media,' they said 'no,'” said Jenn Hudder, kitestring's co-founder.
In 2012, using Twitter or other social media outlets has become a more personable way for small business and large corporations alike to connect with customers.
“[Twitter] wasn't legitimate then. It wasn't taken seriously,” said Meghan Coppolino, kitestring's communications director. “Now, if we tell a client to tweet a picture of a puppy, they'll do it.”
Hudder and fellow co-founder Chris Farias met working at a local marketing firm, but were looking to get involved in something more creative. Branding with the help of social media was something they fell into.
“Twitter was new,” said Hudder,
“There were not many people on it,” Farias said. “There was no hashtag, no on-going conversation.”
This has quickly changed in Hamilton, and kitestring helped lead that change.
“[Kitestring] has really made Hamilton, and the HamOnt hashtag [on Twitter], a popular and vibrant place among business people,” said Alex Sevigny, professor of communication at McMaster University.
“The idea of having an active social media strategy has made us a trend setter in Canada.”
Sevigny said this is not the old days of marketing. We've shifted to an oral culture and there are no more strict rules — it's about letting your guard down, he said.
“What [kitestring] has done is made things more conversational,” Sevigny said. “Forming community around your brand is the future.”
Farias echoes this in his approach to dealing with clients.
“I tweeted about ketchup chips and about going to the Journey concert,” Farias said, of starting his own conversation with clients. “When we meet, it's more personal.”
Hamilton is a great place to do what kitestring has accomplished.
“Hamiltonians love their city in a way no others do,” Sevigny said. “Every citizen has an opinion. They know their city and care about it. For a branding studio, that's golden.”
Farias said an increasing number of clients are local.
“The Hamilton market changed,” he said. “A lot of [our] work came from Toronto. Now Hamilton is looking to Hamilton for creative solutions. That's a huge shift.”
As more Hamiltonians look to have conversations online, Farias said, they are also looking for a better business experience.
“As Hamilton demands better customer service, businesses have to follow,” said Coppolino. “That experience uses social media.”
Tweeting aside, kitestring is a branding studio, creating a brand experience for its clients, said Farias.
“We're most proud we're one of the first creative agencies to step away from the mould,” he said.